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Data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is the fusion of two organizational disciplines — information technology (IT) and facility management — that started early in the second millennium as company’s dedicated building space to housing servers and other physical computing assets. Since then the term has evolved, becoming a descriptor for the centralized monitoring and management of a data center’s critical systems with the goal of optimizing the capacity and efficiency of resources and operations.

Through the implementation of software, hardware and sensors, DCIM tools play vital roles in capacity management (ensuring IT resources like an uninterruptible power supply has the capacity needed to meet current and future business requirements); change management (determining how to integrate new or different equipment as facilities and infrastructures change); and incident/problem management (identifying and resolving infrastructure issues before they become operational problems).  

Selecting a DCIM Solution

When evaluating a DCIM solution, you should evaluate the situations that are creating the most pain when it comes to managing your data center or critical facility. Who is affected? What is the frequency of the occurrence? What costs do these challenges entail? And what is the impact to your customers?

Once your pain points are clearly identified, mapped across the organization, and quantified, the next step would be to identify the desired operational state. Assess, as a team, what kind of functionality would be required from a DCIM solution. Decide how you want your data center and facility challenges to be solved.

DCIM Functions

Inventory Management

As a stakeholder in the data center, you need to know exactly what assets, connections, and capacity exist in your facility and be able to easily make changes for peak performance. If you can visualize your data center more accurately, you can map out your floor space. This allows you to know where your critical assets are located, what applications they are supporting, and how they are connected.

Process Management

The best DCIM tools also allow you to place devices easily and based on system intelligence. By doing so, you can customize processes that are specific to your organization’s needs and requirements. Look for user-friendly administrative configuration that enables continuous improvement of those processes. Additionally, there should be comprehensive reporting that offers insight into the status and performance of a project or process, down to a group or individual level.

Mobile Access

Having 24x7 access to your data center through your mobile device can give you real-time visibility into your critical facility, allowing you to easily move assets, maximize capacities, prevent any unplanned downtime, and improve the overall performance of the organization. Being able to cut down response time for equipment alarms and critical tasks means better digital and overall business continuity.

Site Management

Many DCIM tools collect real-time data for monitoring critical infrastructure, environmental conditions, and power consumption. You can track and report the health of mission-critical devices, and provide information on power, cooling, and environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, airflow, and leak detection. With some analysis, these tools help you see your facility’s power usage effectiveness (PUE) and data center infrastructure efficiency (DCIE) and adhere to industry standards.

Power System Management

Having a comprehensive view of the data center power system from incoming utility power down to rack power distribution essentially creates a dynamic one-line diagram that helps ensure business continuity. DCIM tools with this capability allow you to forecast power consumption based on current and historical data. Using data center capacity objectives, you can plan deployments and map out your IT equipment’s dependency on the power system, which aids in risk assessment and enhances data center team coordination.

Thermal Management

Part of DCIM is being able to evenly distribute the available cooling capacity between IT devices and within the facility. DCIM tools enable monitoring, reporting, and alarm management for the entire mechanical chain from chillers and cooling towers to CRAC and computer room air handler (CRAH) units. You might also utilize 3D heat maps to quickly identify thermal issues, improve response times, and make corrective action plans. These tools ultimately allow you to track thermal improvements over time and document results.

DCIM Priorities

DCIM can certainly help your data center better serve the business by being more efficient, cost-effective and optimized. However, you don't immediately need every capability that DCIM tools offer. Consider your priorities and decide what DCIM function is most essential. Begin with issues that most negatively impact operations.

Are you spending money on equipment you don't need? DCIM inventory tools provide an accurate, real-time inventory of every asset's floor or rack position with modeling to show you the impact of change.

Are you experiencing too much downtime? Insight into real-time power consumption and dependencies between devices helps you reduce energy usage and unplanned outages.

Once you've identified your functional challenges, measure their impact on your data center and the business to set your priorities. Now you can create a plan to implement DCIM tools that will address the most important problems first and provide metrics to help you further define the desired results.

As you move forward, priorities will change and your DCIM plan should change too. With each success, revisit your priorities list and select the next issue to be addressed. The good news is that DCIM not only helps you achieve your goals, but it does so by enabling agility and flexibility, allowing you to reap the benefits over time.

When Implementing DCIM Solutions

With your DCIM initiatives, it’s important to consider what may come next in terms of innovation regarding technology and DCIM software capability. For example, a strictly reactive approach to managing issues within your critical facilities may not be enough for your organization to achieve its availability and sustainability goals.

You may need a more predictive approach that is built on the foundation of DCIM such as data center management as a service (DMaaS). This approach is not just about enabling the collection of your data centers’ operational data via software. It is about tapping into a larger data lake, integrating operational data, and analyzing it at scale to inform all aspects of critical facility management.

While DMaaS promises to go beyond DCIM by adding other service options to traditional physical infrastructure management, it requires having a provider with access to data from a broad range of diverse customers and the capability to run big data analysis.

Even if DMaaS isn’t quite yet on your organization’s radar, you could set the foundation by choosing a DCIM provider that has already been immersed in the data center industry for decades and one that has an extensive and global service network that can support both on-premise and remote DCIM activities.  

Regardless of your approach to avoiding downtime, as you implement DCIM in your organization, revisit your plan regularly and adjust it to suit your changing needs. Perhaps more importantly, collaborate with a provider like Vertiv that offers Trellis enterprise solutions and Vertiv Environment to keep your infrastructure available and future-ready.


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